Just one week after an exciting opening round in Albstadt (Germany), the 2021 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup action continues for cross-country Olympic (XCO) specialists in Nové Město na Moravě (Czech Republic) this weekend, 14-16 May.
Nové Město na Moravě hosted the only two rounds of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup as a double-header across an intense week of racing that brought a season’s worth of surprises. Of the four Elite XCO races, three were maiden victories. In the Men’s, 21-year-old Dane Simon Andreassen’s breakthrough was followed by a first win for Brazil’s Henrique Avancini. French riders prevailed in both Elite Women XCO races: first 21-year-old Loana Lecomte upset the reckoning before Pauline Ferrand-Prévot reasserted her authority.
The narrative continued in Albstadt last weekend with more French success in the Women Elite XCO as Lecomte powered from the fourth row to lead on the first lap. The Under 23 UCI World Champion beat the Elite UCI World Champion Ferrand-Prévot by almost a minute.
“Victory in the first round of the World Cup … So happy with this result!! (with the added bonus of a French double with @paulineferrandprevot),” said Lecomte on social media.
In Men Elite racing, 27-year-old Frenchman Victor Koretzky settled for second behind Mathieu Van der Poel (NED) in the cross-country Short Track (XCC), but took the top step in the XCO, each time beating seven-time UCI World Cup overall winner Nino Schurter (SUI). Koretzky has multiple UCI World Championships medals in Junior, U23 and team events, but UCI World Cup victory had previously eluded him.
“First ever World Cup win, I can’t believe it! It’s amazing! And also first on overall World Cup standings” he announced.
What to expect at Nové Město
At 620m above sea level, Nové Město na Moravě’s fast, fun and flowing main course is a familiar one, this being the 11th time, counting last year’s two rounds, that Nové Město has hosted the UCI World Cup. Most of the riders know it, and many of them love it. It’s usually a fan’s favourite too, but as in 2020, this year’s event will be without spectators to uphold Covid protocols.
After the wider forest track start loop, where there are more opportunities for passing – good for riders such as Britain’s Tom Pidcock, who surged through the pack in Albstadt from position 100 at the start to 5th at the finish, – the XCO course goes into a series of 3.936km laps each featuring 117m of climbing. That’s not a huge amount of elevation by UCI World Cup standards, and the climbs tend to be short, punchy and steep, presenting opportunity to attack, and are followed by descents inviting either recovery or more attacks.
The first climb – Shimano Expert Climb – is steep and rocky. Its small slabs can be slippery yet it’s usually rideable in all conditions, and is followed by a drop through a rock garden before another ascent, then a blind 1.5m drop: a test of nerve as well as skill, where more experienced riders and confident bike handlers can eke a slender advantage. The Cannondale BMX section provides more airtime before another climb – the longest on the circuit – which is rooty and technical. It gives way to a fast, flowy, bermed descent back down through the Mercedes-Benz Rock’n’Roll section to the Vysočina Pump Track and the tarmac start/finish straight in the Vysočina Arena.
The UCI World Cup competition will get underway on Friday 14 May with the entertaining XCC competitions. This year, the course is a little different from that seen in the previous three rounds held at the Czech venue, with more single-track over the 1.5 kilometres.
Emerging young riders
The Under 23 competitions at Albstadt saw Austria’s Mona Mitterwallner follow up her Proffix Swiss Cup win with her first U23 UCI World Cup victory, by a huge gap over Caroline Bohé (DEN) and Blanka Kata Vas (HUN).
There was a closer margin of victory for Carter Woods (CAN) over David List (GER) and Simone Avondetto (ITA), but the Canadian was delighted: “It all unfolded on the second half of the last lap. It was myself and two others, and I laid everything down on the last climb and they weren’t able to stay with me.”
With little top-level competition in the age group over the last year these riders will be eager to push themselves into contention in the Czech Republic.
The event also hosts the cross-country Olympic Junior Series. Over the full XCO course, the Junior races are on the morning of Saturday 15 May, before the Under 23 in the afternoon.
Attention will then turn to the Elite racing on Sunday 16 May. Will the French form carry over from Albstadt? Could Kate Courtney (USA) or Jolanda Neff (SUI) return to winning ways? Can Nino Schurter dominate again on the track where he’s won five UCI World Cups? Will his compatriot Mathias Flückiger shine, or could Ondřej Cink’s home advantage make the difference? We’ll find out soon.